Power revealed: masked police officers in the public sphere

Ruiz, Pollyanna (2017) Power revealed: masked police officers in the public sphere. Visual Communication, 16 (3). pp. 299-314. ISSN 1470-3572

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Demonstrations which spill over into conflict have always required the police to distinguish between members of the public exercising their right to protest, and members of the public engaging in criminal activity, i.e. between ‘good protesters’ and ‘bad protesters’ (Waddington, 1999). Journalists who depended heavily upon official sources when constructing news narratives have historically reproduced these distinctions (Hall et al, 1978) and as a result images of violent protesters have frequently been used to delegitimize their claims (Juris, 2005). However a number of high profile investigations into the policing of protest in the UK mean that police officers are also being subjected to distinctions made by inquiry panels between ‘good police officers’ and ‘bad police officers’. Thus a new trope is emerging in popular print and online news narratives in which the actions of the police rather than protesters are becoming the object of the public’s attention.

These dynamics will be explored with reference to the ways in which confrontations between protesters and police were pictured in the aftermath of Ian Tomlinson’s death. It will focus in particular on the way in which images highlighting acts of concealment became a significant strand in on and off line news narrative as they developed in the years between Tomlinson’s death in 2009 and the civil suit bought against PC Harwood in 2012. It will argue that images of police officers in militarized helmets and without identity tags become synonymous with the opacity that initially characterized the police forces response to the death of Tomlinson. It will conclude by suggesting that this lack of transparency contrasted with the extended visibility offered by mobile phone footage of the demonstration and contributed to the police’s inability to frame G20 protesters as violent agitators.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Protest, Public Sphere, Policing, News, Concealment
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Film and Music > Media and Film
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology > HM0621 Culture
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology > HM0661 Social control
Depositing User: Pollyanna Ruiz
Date Deposited: 07 Feb 2017 15:53
Last Modified: 08 Jan 2018 10:37
URI: http://srodev.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/66654

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